Turkish Chief of General Staff breaks silence after coup case verdict

Turkish Chief of General Staff breaks silence after coup case verdict

ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
Turkish Chief of General Staff breaks silence after coup case verdict

Chief of Staff Necdet Özel has broken his silence after receiving considerable criticism from Balyoz suspects. AA Photo

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has released a written statement concerning the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) verdict, underlining that he is “just a public servant whose duty is defined by laws,” following questions over his silence after the coup case verdict was released.

The verdicts of such historic cases should be discussed by experts, evaluated by legislative and executive bodies, and the soul-searching for the verdicts should be done by the nation, Özel said.

“Due to my corporate identity, I think I don’t have right to comment on subjects that were submitted to the court, and I do not find it right to share my opinions with the public via the press. I find it sufficient to declare that I have personally shared my views with the related authorities,” he added.

Özel’s remarks came soon after the Turkish Navy officers imprisoned for alleged involvement in the Balyoz coup plans released a joint statement condemning their superiors for remaining silent, even after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld their convictions.

“As long as you remain silent, don’t come to funerals of our family members who died out of our grief, or to our spouses, children our family elders for consolation,” the officers jailed in Mamak military prison in Ankara said in the six-page written statement on Oct. 18.

The officers said the commanders’ remaining silent even after the Balyoz case trial process had finished was “inapprehensible.”

Meanwhile, Özel slammed recent stories noting that most of the acquitted suspects in the coup case were members of the Land Forces, describing them as moves to “break the peace and to make discrimination in the Turkish Armed Forces.”

He said that he and his family had always felt the sorrow of the jailed army personnel and their families in his heart, in response to the criticisms over his indifference to the convictions of the army personnel.

“When I took office, the evidence was collected, arrests were made, the prosecution was completed, the indictment was completed and accepted by the related court, and the trail process had already started over the case dubbed ‘Balyoz,’” said Özel.

He also said that he was informed daily about all investigations and trials of the Turkish armed forces personnel and looked for legal solutions to the issue, while sharing his opinion with the authorities.

The Supreme Court of Appeals approved the convictions of 237 suspects in its much-anticipated verdict in the Balyoz case on Oct. 9, while quashing the convictions of 63 other suspects on the grounds that they had agreed to commit a crime but had not followed through and actually committed an infraction.

The verdict was the product of the longest trial in the history of the Supreme Court of Appeals, with the process including defenses from 96 lawyers at 17 sessions that stretched out for a month.

Many observers have suggested that the legal process has still not ended, saying that individual applications could be submitted to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as a last judicial instance.